Dear UJ Community,
Whenever I find time, I stroll around our University grounds to enjoy the tranquillity of our campus landscape. For all the challenges that we have as a University, including the intermittent water and electricity supply, our campuses are exceptionally scenic and offer something that is calming to the mind and soul. Yesterday felt particularly special for me. I stepped out of the Madibeng Building at the Auckland Park (APK) campus to the sight of a giant marquee and a few gazebos that had sprung up in front of the Sanlam Auditorium. At that moment, I knew that this evening’s ceremony (Inauguration of the Vice-Chancellor and Principal) will have the pomp and splendour of a University graduation.
I have been preparing for some time for this day, but seeing those marquees was quite moving. At that moment, my mind wandered off to the years gone by. I found myself on a journey into my childhood. My parents’ words of encouragement, their sentiments about the importance of education, and their career wishes for me echoed through my mind. Memories of the days when I, along with other boys and girls from my village, dreamt about the wonderful possibilities that growing older would bring, including moving to the big cities and eking out livings, crowded my mind.
Today is not the time for dreaming. In a few hours’ time, I will walk up to the stage for what would be one of the most momentous days of my life. While the reality has sunk in, it still feels surreal that I am now the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of this great University. I am grateful that my parents’ words and unwavering belief in my potential were not in vain. To paraphrase from an article by my colleague and friend at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Professor Tinyiko Maluleke, “If only my father, Daniel Pule Mpedi, was here to see me donning the hallowed mantle of Vice-Chancellor and Principal.” I take solace in the fact that my mother, Josephine Hambile Mpedi, will witness this special occasion.
As I embrace this opportunity, I am also conscious that many of my childhood friends were less fortunate. The South African reality is that only some of us are afforded opportunities, and only a handful of us emerge from our contexts. There remains unrealised potential in villages like mine, and we must fight hard to realise this potential for all. I share more insights into this issue in an article I penned for the Mail & Guardian this week, titled Inequity in higher education is a price too high to pay.
It is indeed an honour and a privilege to take up the helm of this great institution that has emerged as the quintessential African success story. I am proud that we are a University of possibilities that demonstrates the transformative power of education. Talking of transformation, I urge you to read an article I co-authored with Prof Bhaso Ndzendze, Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations, titled Demanding prior work experience from new graduates is unfair and short-sighted.
Wednesday this week was International Women’s Day. This year, the day was celebrated under the theme #EmbraceEquity. Although we are not yet where we envisage being as an institution, I am nonetheless encouraged by the significant strides we have made in creating opportunities for women to flourish across our academic and support domains. It is especially encouraging to see our female staff excel nationally and globally.
Previously, it was mentioned that four of our academics and researchers were finalists in the International Women of Stature Awards 2023. The ‘Women of Stature’ is an international organisation that has grown over the past five years into one of the most prestigious award platforms for women. Please join me in congratulating Professor Corné Davis, lecturer and researcher in the Department of Strategic Communication in the Faculty of Humanities, and Dr Stella Bvuma, HOD in the Department of Applied Information Systems in the College of Business and Economics.
Prof Davis was honoured with the 2023 Women of Stature Award in the Education and Training category, while Dr Bvuma received the 2023 Women of Stature Award in the Innovation and Technology category. Prof Davis was also announced as the overall Women of Stature Awards winner. She will represent South Africa at the Global Women of Stature Awards in September this year.
The UK Council for Graduate Education’s Research Supervision Recognition Programme has also awarded Dr Suraiya Naicker, Head of the Department of Educational Leadership & Management, Faculty of Education, with a certificate of recognition for her supervisory expertise. Congratulations to you all – keep flying the UJ flag high.
We do, however, recognise that we need to do more to reach our transformative targets in gender equity. As recently as last week, on 2 March, we launched the UJ Women in Leadership Development Programme’s (UJWLDP) eighth cohort. The Transformation Unit and stakeholders will continue creating conversations and platforms to promote Gender Equity and Equality. Women’s leadership programmes are designed to address the gender gap in leadership positions and provide women with the skills and tools they need to succeed in leadership roles. Forums such as this are doing the critical groundwork to create a level playing field. As the struggle song reminds us, “malibongwe igama lamakhosikasi” – praise the word of women.
I thank those of you who attended the Vice-Chancellor Campus Engagement events at the Soweto Campus (SWC) and Doornfontein Campus (DFC) this week on Monday and Wednesday, respectively. Your contributions and inputs are invaluable, and your concerns have been noted. The last of these events for this semester will take place at the Auckland Park Kingsway (APK) campus, on Monday, 13 March. The meeting will take place at the Sanlam Auditorium, at the usual time of 12:00. If there are any specific issues you would like to have addressed, or if you have a question for me, please send these to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to engaging with you on matters that are important to our university.
Kea leboha, Ngiyabonga, baie dankie, ndia livhuwa, thank you!
Prof Letlhokwa Mpedi: Vice-Chancellor and Principal
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone